The Museum of Oxford reopens today following two years of closure and a £2.8 million refurbishment. 

The museum reopens with new displays of objects, images, oral histories and interactive exhibits.

It is the only museum in Oxford which is dedicated to telling the history of the city and its people.

The ground floor features two new galleries which will show the changing story of Oxford through its history and people, from Romans and Anglo-Saxons to the first Cowley factory workers.

The gallery also features the infamous Cutteslowe Wall and the city’s rich heritage through times of conflict and industry.

Out of all these new exhibitions and items dedicated to Oxford's history, what are the best? 

Museum of Oxford top ten exhibitions:

1. The Cutteslowe Walls Divide

The notorious Cutteslowe Walls separated the Cutteslowe council estate from middle-class homes. Constructed in 1934 by the privately-owned Urban Housing Company, these intimidating, nine feet (2.7 metres) high walls were topped with revolving metal spikes. They formed a barrier between Carlton and Wolsey Roads, and between Wentworth and Aldrich Roads. Despite many protests and several attempts to remove the walls, they were not demolished until 1959, after the City Council bought the strips of land on which they had been erected.

Oxford Mail: The Cuttleslowe Walls Divide on display (Sophie Perry)The Cuttleslowe Walls Divide on display (Sophie Perry)

2. Pieces of the Martyrs’ Memorial 

Not all encounters between Town and Gown were violent. These pieces of stone were knocked from the Martyrs’ Memorial in the 1920s when local steeplejack and stonemason George Collins climbed up to retrieve a chamber pot which had been placed at the top of it by a student.

3. St. Frideswide’s Grave Slab

Featuring a carved face with concentric circles below, radiating from a central diamond. The slab dates to between 900 and 1099 and was found at Christ Church Cathedral during restorations in 1869. It is believed to be the grave marker of St. Frideswide.

4. Knucklebone Pavement 

This unusual flooring, dating from the 1600s, is primarily made from sheep and cattle bones. Perhaps it was in a domestic dwelling, or the workshop of a trader in animal products. Only seventeen examples of flooring like this have been found in the UK, twelve of them in Oxfordshire, suggesting that it was common locally. This example was found in Park End Street.

Oxford Mail: Close up shot of the kuncklebone pavement dating from the 1600s (Sophie Perry)Close up shot of the kuncklebone pavement dating from the 1600s (Sophie Perry)

The large bones may be cannon (lower leg) bones, which were of little use for cooking because they have hardly any meat on them. Knuckle bone floors were durable and drained well; they are a great example of early recycling!

5. The Book of the Morris Minor by H Jelley and EG Eastwood 

A complete guide for prospective buyers and owners of the Morris Minor, containing advertisements for products approved by Morris Motors. By 1925, five thousand people were employed in car-making in Cowley. The Morris factory and the Pressed Steel Company (also co-founded by William Morris) transformed Oxford into an industrial city. By the 1960s almost half of Oxford’s workers were in manufacturing jobs.

Working on the car factory’s production line was physically demanding and sometimes dangerous; in the middle of the 1900s there were on-going problems due to poor relations between the management and unions.

Today the plant still hosts apprenticeships, and many employees have progressed their careers thanks to the company’s willingness to invest in its workforce

6. Annabelinda two-piece suit 

Silk skirt and jacket made by hand, with piping around the edges and sculpting in patterns of lines. Next to the suit are its pattern pieces. Belinda O’Hanlon wore this suit to the Oxford Film Society’s premiere of Hugh Grant’s first film Privileged.

Oxford Mail: Annabelinda exhibition case (Museum of Oxford)Annabelinda exhibition case (Museum of Oxford)

7. Red Cross Medal 

Having inspired the children’s books, Alice Liddell went on to lead an interesting life. As young women, she and her sisters toured Europe. Alice married Reginald Hargreaves and had three sons, two of whom died in the First World War. Despite this, Alice did a great deal of voluntary work during the war and received a Red Cross medal for her efforts.

8. Gorget (English Civil War) Found by Matt Armitage.

“I found this ... in the River Thames at Godstow in north-west Oxford. I contacted the Royal Armoury at the Tower of London and sent them a drawing. They identified it as a piece of Civil War armour – a gorget, worn around the throat. They said that it was very rare and dated it to around 1643. They told me to look out for the dent where the manufacturer of the armour tested it by shooting it with a musket.”
9. Scott’s Marmalade Tin

Cooper’s marmalade and fruit preserves were part of Captain Scott’s rations for his doomed attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole in 1910. None of the expedition party survived, but this tin was found in Antarctica and returned to Oxford.

Private expeditions required large amounts of money and support. Often companies like Frank Cooper’s donated products free of charge.

10. The Town Hall: A Hospital in Wartime

Oxford’s 3rd Southern General Hospital, founded in 1914, was one of the largest in southern England. It occupied several buildings, including the Radcliffe Infirmary, the University’s Examination Schools, and the Town Hall. Thousands of soldiers from all over the world were treated here. Women provided crucial medical care as nurses and Voluntary Aid Detachment workers. More than 150 of the soldiers who died in the hospital were buried in Botley Cemetery.

Oxford Mail: Exhibition of Oxford during the wartime (Sophie Perry)Exhibition of Oxford during the wartime (Sophie Perry)